Police weapons out during Skid Row arrest of unarmed man

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Frankly, this could have gone way worse. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ A lot of arrests in #SkidRow look like this: extreme cop presence, weapons out, instant aggression despite that nothing violent was happening. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Many of those arrested have mental health and/or disabilities, as was the case here; situations which require extra care and alternative personnel but rarely receive either. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Then, as you see in the next video, the police turns to the crowd on the sidewalks — ostensibly folks who are in their own front yards — as if they are criminals too. ⁣⁣ ⁣ The man in the center, the brother of a friend’s wife, was arrested and unhurt when he was taken away. But the events that led to that detainment were once again way out of control.⁣ ⁣⁣ This system is broken and the police officers out there who agree need to drop their guns and join the cause that ACTUALLY matters. #defundthepolice

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The violent reality of Skid Row “evictions”

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A Skid Row tent went up in flames around midnight on Wednesday, catching flame to an apartment building at 5th and San Pedro (across from @stephanitelystyle and @kingsilas_is_kingpharaoh’s White House) in the process. ⁣ ⁣ Thanks to Pharoah’s quick work helping to move things around, no other tents were burned. That material snaps up sparks faster than firewood, but word on the street was that the fire wasn’t an accident. ⁣ ⁣ I’ve been told for two months that Skid Row, operating by its own laws and power structures, believes in policing its own, in part because every system of authority has failed them. Wednesday was further evidence of that. “He was messing up,” I was told. ⁣ ⁣ A bottle of lighter fluid later, the man had lost his home. According to those around, he thankfully was not in the tent at the time and no one was hurt. #skidrow #skidrowla #skidrowportraits #skidrowphotos #homelessnessawareness #homelesslivesmatter

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Shorty and Skid Row continue to teach me about white privilege

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Since I’ve been reporting in Skid Row, I’ve been working w/ Shorty to achieve the tools necessary to receive her rightful CARES Act check & change her situation.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Homelessness is destructive in its ability to keep one on the treadmill; to plunder one’s energy and redirect it: toward immediate safety & possession protection, toward accessing food, water, a place to use the bathroom, a tarp to keep off the rain.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ But as I’ve witnessed, those aren’t the only challenges. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Yesterday, when Shorty & I were doing errands — going to check her mail, attempting to sign her up for various programs, to retrieve an ID — I was well aware that I was getting a different response than she typically does, trying to execute these seemingly simple tasks alone. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ While waiting in line, she looked at me. “When I’m with you, suddenly doors are open,” she said.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ In my shame & embarrassment, I said something stupid: “There’s power in numbers,” But Shorty, ever sharp & perceptive, corrected me. “No,” she said, running a finger down the white skin of my arm. “It’s this.” ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ As Minneapolis and the country suffers yet another tragedy this week, mourning— to quote Ta-Nehisi Coates — the way that racism reduces to violence landing on the black body, I’ve been thinking about my time in Skid Row. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ There, as one of the few white people around, I operate under a completely different standard; held to a different set of rules, even if I don’t always recognize it in the moment — the very definition of privilege. When the cops roll through, they see me differently; friends have kidded about handing me their beers should trouble arise. It’s a joke, but it’s not.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ But my experiences w/ Shorty have reminded me, viscerally, that physical force isn’t the only violence that lands on the black body. That the systematic distrust, dismissal & rebuke of POCs serve to bring individuals down & keep them there. That doesn’t always equal death, but it certainly impacts life. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ I am learning every day: to acknowledge my own privilege, to use it for change; to see my own failure to do so & all the ways I feed into this broken system. I promise to keep trying. ❤️

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Santa Monica police chief still has no answers, shifts blame five days after Sunday catastrophe

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Today, during a peaceful protest at Santa Monica, CA’s city hall, questions were lobbed at police chief Cynthia Renaud, who took the megaphone despite have stunningly little to say. ⁣ ⁣ Five days after Sunday’s catastrophe, in which police forces first open-fired with tear gas canisters and rubber bullets on peaceful protesters while designating woefully few resources to address the separately occurring looting and destruction, Renaud had the audacity to announce she was aware that “in some cities, in some states,” the police have shown racism and acted aggressively and wrongfully toward the civilian population. All the while, tank-like vehicles and officers garbed in military fatigues lined the perimeter of unarmed protesters. ⁣ ⁣ It was remarkable that she agreed to speak having clearly thought so little about what to say, and even more incredible to hear that she seems to believe the current movement against police brutality that is sweeping the nation has nothing to do with her innocent police force, which by the way, intentionally shot me in the foot with a rubber bullet on Sunday, along with many others, who fared much worse. She even had the nerve to bring a black officer to the center stage with her (though not allowing him to talk) as she declared “We are the Santa Monica police Dept. This is what we look like.” ⁣ ⁣ The crowd, booing loudly, was not entertained. Neither am I. If Sunday’s chaos didn’t prove ineptitude, her inability to apologize for the massive errors — or even recognize or reckon with them publicly — certainly did. 😤 #FireCynthiaRenaud #santamonicaprotest #defundthepolice #laprotest #santamonicapolice

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The state of policing: does “protect and serve” still apply?

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Yesterday in Santa Monica, as the protest we’d been a part of for hours continued peacefully, the police was pulling on gas masks.⁣ ⁣ Like everyone, I couldn’t help but watch them as they faced off with the people they’ve promised to serve and protect. Some of the cops pulled batons from their holsters, gripped their pellet guns as if just looking for a reason to shoot. Others seemed as though they were attempting to embody “neutral” amidst this dystopian show of militant antagonism. ⁣ ⁣ But if that was ever possible, it certainly no longer is.⁣ ⁣ I believe there are members of the police who are trying to be good humans. Some, when they signed up to be a cop, probably believed they were doing something good & helpful for society. Many probably never dreamed they’d be in a situation like yesterday; charged with shutting down peaceful protests, representing and protecting — rather than the community at large — fellow officers who have been exposed on camera breaking the law in horrendous ways.⁣ ⁣ But let’s be honest, this isn’t working. Police indoctrination is broken. The training model is broken. The procedure is broken. The values are broken. The culture is broken. Innocent black Americans are dying at a rate that should infuriate us all.⁣ ⁣ Now, part of an officer’s job includes tear gassing and shooting innocent, peaceful protesters with rubber bullets, as the police did yesterday, shortly after pulling on the masks. The pressure is higher than ever and yet I can’t believe we haven’t seen *more* officers step down right now. Are you all really OK with defending and validating this system?? Can you sleep at night??⁣ ⁣ If you are an officer who is trying to do good in the world, please don’t delude yourself into believing you can spur change from the inside; like a cancer, healing cannot come from within the very forces that created it; the immune system is too weak, the cancer is too strong. It takes something destructive, like chemotherapy, ravaging the entire system in hopes the cancer is rooted out, too.⁣ ⁣ It’s time to reconsider whether being a part of the police means protecting and serving as the oath says — or if it means the opposite.

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Peaceful Santa Monica protests, until law enforcement arrived

Live Inspired: In this midst of this chaos, a moment of quiet

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

I’m writing this just after midnight on a Wednesday; the world, from my San Salvador balcony is quiet.

The world, here, is never quiet.

Situated on a cliff hanging over a valley that stretches out beneath a frantic highway, my apartment sits in the heart of the vibrant Antiguo Cuscatlán neighborhood — a place where at any moment one can hear the call of street vendors selling paletas and pan; the clamant broadcast of church services, those pastors speaking in tongues via mics connected to far-reaching amps; the roar of traffic and the groan of heavy loads in trucks that have been on the road a few years too long; the long-extending parties that thrive in the event center just across the street.

Entrenched in past scars, ex-gang members lack almost every ingredient for hope; they’re baking anyway

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Both the U.S. and the El Salvador governments call the current gang epidemic in El Salvador a crisis of epic proportions. But opportunities for gang members to escape the cycle of violence — with their lives — remain incredibly dangerous, and rare. This is one unfunded organization that’s trying, anyway.

The young men carefully guided the large, metal trays out of the industrial-sized oven and onto standing racks to cool.

The artisanship was evident: perfect, buttery coils of pan con ajo; creamy-topped novias; rows of soft picudas, their delicate peaks adorned with golden beads of sugar. In the other room, a few others were masterfully shaping the dough before it went into the kiln — twisting spirals to form decadent cachitos; filling jalea-replete gusanitos with the second nature sort of motion that comes only with time, repetition and dedication.

As the air filled with warmth and rich wafts of butter and yeast, I felt like I might be in any typical Salvadoran bakery, except for notable context: all of these delicacies were being made by ex-gang members.

In the back of a makeshift church in one of the most brutally violent territories in the country, these tattooed hands that not so long ago embarked on very different tasks were now rolling out thin ropes of dough, gracefully arranging them in circular designs atop sweetbreads.

Live Inspired mailbag: health & wellness

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Welcome to my monthly mailbag!

Here, I take your questions about a particular topic of my nomadic life and give you all the secrets about how I make this crazy existence work.

The theme this month? Health and wellness. Let’s be real, even when we’re stationery it can be hard to juggle all of our physical and mental needs along with work and social activities. Let me tell you, when you’re on the move, it can be even harder.

It took me a full year just to figure out how I could scrap together a daily routine in the midst of travel, even when my apartments, my cities and my work flow are constantly changing. (You can read more about that here.)

13 discount codes to make your trip cheaper

Related content: how to eat for cheap; how to travel the U.S. as a broke nomad.

Let’s be honest: if you live in the U.S., travel — both nationally and internationally — is constantly threatening to break your budget and leave you with post-vaca woes. Partly thanks to our geographical location and partly thanks to an airline industry that’s completely out of control, flights can be really expensive! Most hotels are honestly nuts, too. ($400/night just to get some shuteye? Are you disconnected from reality??!) And transportation in a given place isn’t always much better. If you’re doling out $2,000+ just to arrive, sleep and get around, your whole travel plan gets squeezed — perhaps causing you to skip some of the actual, you know, SIGHTS.

That’s tragic. And really, really defeating. Thankfully, there are lots of ways to save some bucks on the logistical costs if you know how to work the system, play the points game (get loyal: with a credit card, an airline, a hotel chain, etc.) and SHARE SOME CODES.

Here are 13 of my own personalized codes you can use to cut the costs on your next trip. (Bonus: for most of these, I benefit too!)